Quarter Mark Report Card

My three stars of the season’s first quarter are:
(3) Pascal Leclaire — the backstopper of the BlueJackets, disbelievingly into playoff contention, with a .940 save percentage, 1.59 goals-against (second-best in the league) and five shutouts. He’s my Vezina Trophy winner for the first quarter;
(2) Henrik Zetterberg — previously a terrific scoring forward, now a superstar, and clearly a more dynamic talent up front for the Wings than Pavel Datsyuk. Soon to be paid so?;
(1) Vincent Lecavalier — simply having his best season as a pro, the league’s leading scorer with 32 pts.; dominating his opposition and making what was believed to be a top-heavy corps of Bolts’ forwards into a first line that’s so good it matters little what contributions, if any, follow. He’s my Hart Trophy winner for the first quarter.
Honorable mention: Jarome Iginla (26 points in 19 games) is having an MVP quality season, but he’s laboring on a struggling Flames club. And Comcast, for coming through with NHL CenterIce, the NHL Network, and Lisa Hillary.
Cup'pa JoeFalling stars:
(3) the Washington Capitals
(2) Marc Andre Fleury
(1) Reebok
Midwest Mojo: Rebuilds in Chicago and St. Louis are ahead of pace and impressive. Patrick Kane is my Calder Trophy winner for the first quarter. Robert Lang, with 19 points in 20 games, and skating a +7, is giving the Hawks precisely the kind of productive, veteran leadership they’d hoped for on the top line. Still, the Hawks have issues — in their back end. They’ve surrendered 61 goals, and both Khabibulin and Lalime sport sub-.900 save percentages. But after a decade of dreariness, the Hawks are fun to watch again. The leading scorers for the Blues are greybeards Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk. After that, it’s a lunchpail outfit that’s outworking its opponents. There’s a lot of youth of that roster, so it may strengthen as the season progrsses. And what of Clumbus, the claimers of Jiri Novotny and Kris Beech? They are eighth in the West, and 6-2-1 at home.
In the East, Montreal and the Islanders have been stunning success stories. It’s a balanced attack in Montreal: the Habs already have eight players in double digits in scoring. And remember how everybody in hockey was pitying the Isles after the opening hours of free agency, when guys like Jason Blake, Tom Poti, and Viktor Kozlov bolted? Ted Nolan is working his second consecutive miracle on the Isle.
Might in the Michaels. Mike Richards and Mike Cammalleri have staked out take-it-to-the-bank All Star game selections. Richards (23 points in 19 games) is Philadelphia’s most consistent and dynamic performer, a point-per-game player who this season has transitioned from promising youngster to elite, captain-quality talent. His three shorthanded tallies lead the league. Cammalleri (12 goals, 7 assists) is beginning to look a lot like the Western conference’s version of Martin St. Louis.
Jolly Ole Productive St. Nik. Nik Antropov is healthy and playing virtually a point-a-game hockey for the Leafs, and skating a +9. Who knew he could? He had 33 points last season, and a high of 16 goals and 29 assists in 2002-03. Obviously he’s on pace for a career year. Alex Kovalev is on pace for 40 goals. Meanwhile, Jonathon Cheeechoo has just 3 goals in 21 games for the Sharks. Jaromir Jagr, I’m sad to report, is on pace for 16 goals this season, and Chris Drury (3 goals!) even less. Still, their Rangers have seriously heated up in the Atlantic.
Jeremy Roenick — remember him? — is outscoring Mike Modano, Brendan Shanahan, Thomas Vanek, Drury, Chris Higgins, Brian Gionta, and Patrick Marleau. One of the reasons Tampa was able to survive the loss of Dan Boyle for much of the season’s first quarter was the play of Paul Ranger: 4 goals, a +11, and an able distributor on the power play point.
It sure appears as if Peter Forsberg has played his last game in the NHL, and perhaps in pro hockey period. Next stop, the Hall of Fame. Less honorably sidelined, in my judgment, are Scott Niedermayer and Teamu Selanne, who appear to want to allow their Ducks teammates to shoulder the early regular season’s bumps and bruises before perhaps rejoining them for the stretch run and postseason. I’m sorry, but hockey players play hockey when hockey starts, not finishes. Without them, the defending champion Ducks are holding it together rather well.
Guy Carbonneau and Ted Nolan share the Jack Adams Trophy for the season’s first quarter, from my vantage. Honorable mention: Ken Hitchcock.

This entry was posted in Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Lisa Hillary, Morning cup-a-joe, National Hockey League, St. Louis Blues. Bookmark the permalink.

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